A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman #bookreview #magicalrealism #TuesdayBookBlog

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

When I requested this from NetGalley, I didn’t realize it was originally released in 2016. Reading reviews from that time, it looks like this novella was categorized as horror – which is absolutely isn’t. On Amazon, it’s now listed as coming of age and magical realism, which are much more appropriate descriptions.

Can I just say how cool this cover is? The eerie colors and perspective of the boat above the house just draw you in, and it helped me visualize the house as James and Amelia explored it underwater.

I’ve read three other books by this author and enjoyed them all, especially Bird Box. While I liked both of these teen characters and was riveted by their growing obsession with the house and their discoveries, I had to shove my disbelief out of the way several times to continue on with the story. Their first exploration of the house is done by holding their breath, but they quickly realize that’s not possible if they want to get through all of it. Then they bring an old diving suit which requires an air compressor. With only one suit, each of them takes a turn and also helps the other change in and out of it. Keep in mind all of this happens in a canoe – which is apparently large enough to hold hundreds of feet of hose and a heavy air compressor and is miraculously stable enough to never capsize. James and Amelia then decide to become certified divers, something I’ve never done, but I’d think requires more than a handful of days.

Once I pushed all that aside, I enjoyed this tale, which at times is eerie, claustrophobic, and even heartwarming, but it’s not my favorite by Malerman. For me, the ending is a thing of beauty and not what I’d expected.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Conscience by Jonathan Pongratz #novella #scifi

Rory Bennels lives in a world ruled by a business entity known as the Corporation. For years he’s executed cerebral uploads for the recently deceased, but when the famed anarchist Epher Lore ends up in his lab, a series of events occur that shakes Rory’s world to the core.

I’ve been a science fiction fan since before I hit double digits in age, and I read across the board in the genre.  As a fan of this author’s horror novella, I was immediately interested in checking out his venture into sci-fi.

Cerebral upload isn’t a new concept to me, but the author puts a different spin on it.  What happens when the upload is from a wanted anarchist who has repeatedly eluded authorities and is accidentally transferred into a robot?

Rory is a follow-the-rules type of guy who’s just keeping his head down and doing his job, but then everything he believes about his world changes almost in the blink of an eye.  He’s forced to make a quick decision that will forever alter his life, and you’ll cheer him on until the last page.

Although this is a quick story, the author does a wonderful job with character development, and there’s plenty of action to go along with it.  If you’re a sci-fi/dystopian fan, I highly recommend this novella.  I’d be interested in seeing what happens next to these characters.

I was an early reader of this novella and received a complimentary copy from the author.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

In Search of McDoogal by Mae Clair #bookreview #shortread #humor

In search of something ugly…

All Brady Conrad wants to do is earn a few merit points with his artist girlfriend, so he volunteers to cover her gallery when she leaves town. What should be an easy day of sales goes belly up when he mistakenly sells a cherished painting.

With the clock ticking toward Vanessa’s return, Brady has less than a day to track McDoogal down. He coerces his friend Declan to tag along for moral support. How difficult can it be for an investigator and the director of a renowned institute to find a single painting in a town the size of a postage stamp?

Neither Brady nor Declan counted on a suspicious sheriff, rival baseball teams with a longstanding grudge, or a clueless kid trying to win his girlfriend with all the wrong gifts.

McDoogal is smack in the middle. But Brady’s biggest dilemma isn’t the disastrous hunt. It’s confessing to Vanessa her painting is the ugliest thing he’s ever seen. 

I’ve read several Mae Clair books now, but this short read is a departure from her supernatural suspense reads.  And boy, was it fun.

Poor Brady.  He’s trying to win the girl, but accidentally sells her beloved painting.  After a stroke of good luck tracking it down, he thinks retrieving it won’t be quite as difficult as he’d thought – guess again.  He and his friend hit one obstacle after another, and from the varying opinions on exactly what kind of animal is featured on this canvas (rat, hamster, cat, etc.), I had fun imagining what this “cherished painting” looked like.  Brady’s and Declan’s entertaining banter had me chuckling, as well as a certain Freddie Mercury-worshipping character.  As a cat lover, I especially enjoyed learning about the real McDoogal in the author’s note at the end.

If you’re looking for a humorous, light-hearted, quick read, In Search of McDoogal checks all those boxes.

Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz FREE Today! #FreeBook #horror

I don’t usually post on Sunday, but today I’ve got a fantastic reason to – and I promise you’ll benefit from it.  An author friend of mine, Jonathan Pongratz, is offering Reaper: A Horror Novella FREE today!  I read it back in the winter, and if you’re a fan of dark basements and vivid imagery that may send chills down your spine, this book is for you.  Get it FREE today and you’ll have time to read it before the sequel is released – which I can’t wait to get my hands on!

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

Purchase Link  Amazon 

Excerpt:

Call me a scaredy cat all you want, but there was always something about the basement that I didn’t like. It always made me feel like I was being watched, like there was some

thing in the shadows just waiting for me to make a wrong move. Even now, the frigid air crept over me, creating more goosebumps on my arms and legs. I quickened my strides up the stairs, Imogen dragging behind.

We were halfway up the stairs when the knocks stopped. For a moment, I stopped my climb. The house was eerily quiet, and for reasons I can’t explain I felt a sudden urge to hurry back upstairs. I charged forward, trying to pull Immy along with me, but she resisted.

“Too fast!” she whined.

“If you hurry, we can play dress up sooner, now come on!” I yanked on Immy’s arm, practically lifting her into the air. Seven steps. Just seven more steps and we could look back on this night and laugh it off. Seven, six, five. Almost there.

I was just three steps away from the door when I leaped for the landing. I’ll never forget that jump. Time seemed to stand still, as if those cold icy fingers in the air had somehow found a way to slow time down. I remember that I had a smile on my face, a smile that disappeared when the door slammed shut in my face.

 

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The Tomato Quest (Chasing the Romantics #2) by D.G. Driver #bookreview #fairytale #TuesdayBookBlog

Dash and Lillian are in love, but her wealthy father won’t permit them to be married because Dash is not a suitable match. He is nothing but the son of the family’s gardener. To be rid of the young man, Lillian’s father claims that the only way Dash could ever earn Lillian’s hand in marriage is to find his fortune in the time it takes a basket of fresh tomatoes to rot. Naturally, Sir Barrymore isn’t serious about this challenge, but Dash sees it as his only chance to win the hand of the woman he loves. He leaves immediately on a quest to find a way to complete this impossible task. Meanwhile, Lillian is doing her best to make her parents postpone her engagement to someone else in order to give Dash time to return. It is a whirlwind fairy tale adventure full of danger, cunning, magic, true love, and tomatoes.

Although I’ve never been a huge fairy tale fan, I’ve enjoyed the original stories in this series.  The Tomato Quest can be easily read in an hour or so, and I finished it in an afternoon over Christmas.  It’s a sweet tale containing star-crossed lovers who are determined to be together despite the objections of their parents and the expectations of society.  After being handed a near impossible challenge, Dash doesn’t have a clear-cut plan for success.  He encounters one roadblock after another, yet he shoulders on, and you have to admire his tenacity.  In the beginning, I wasn’t completely convinced Lillian was all in, but she proved me wrong.  Her actions in defying her parents gave me some chuckles.

If you’re a fairy tale fan or a fan of sweet romances, I recommend giving this series a try.  I somehow missed this novella when it was first published, and the author was gracious enough to provide me a copy for review.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz #bookreview #horror

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

I love a good horror story.  And that’s exacty what I found in Pongratz’s novella.

Everyone knows basements are bad news in horror books and movies.  You just want to yell at the characters to steer clear.  But if they didn’t go into the basement/attic/check on the noise outside, you’d miss out on all the scary escapades, and where’s the fun in that?  Reaper most definitely offers those scary escapades coupled with vivid imagery that may send chills down your spine.

The sibling relationship between Gregory and Imogen is done well and very believable – sweet and loving at times, and then exasperating when she teases her brother.  After the trauma of losing his sister, I liked how Greg didn’t accept the situation and give up on her, instead, beginning his own investigation and facing his fears.

The ending leaves the possibility open for another book, and I hope the author continues this story.  I’d love to know what happens next.  If you’re looking for a quick, eerie read, Reaper is a perfect book to curl up with.  And if you’re feeling brave, read it at night when you’re home alone.

#BadMoonRising: Reaper: A Horror Novella by Jonathan Pongratz #horror #paranormal

Today’s author is perfectly suited to write in the horror genre.  He’s ready to break out the Ouija board and head for the graveyard.  Haunted house?  Been there, done that.  Move on to the next supernatural adventure.  His horror novella is waiting in my TBR, and it sounds perfect for a creepy Halloween read.  Welcome Jonathan Pongratz!

Would you rather walk through a haunted graveyard at midnight or spend the night in a haunted, abandoned house?

I’ve stayed in a haunted house before, although it wasn’t abandoned, so let’s go with the graveyard. Give me a Ouija board and I’m ready for some ghostly conversations!

I’ve never been in a graveyard at night, much less a haunted one, so I’d be curious to see if I could rouse some spirits in the spirit of Halloween. The occult has always held a sort of fascination for me.

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf? 

Vampire, hands down. Ever since reading Anne Rice in high school I’ve been obsessed. I mean, who would give up the chance to walk the night forever in exchange for a little bit of blood? Not this guy!

Would you rather be locked in a haunted insane asylum or lost in the woods with a killer on the loose?

Being in the woods with a killer would maybe be a bit too real for me, so let’s go with haunted insane asylum. I’ve seen some footage from those ghost hunting shows, and I think whether or not you make contact, just being stuck in a haunted insane asylum would be extremely terrifying in a psychological way. And that’s before the haunting starts. How exhilarating!

 If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in the same setting, where would you choose?

I would love to write a book set in a small town in New England. I’ve been itching to write a werewolf detective mystery of sorts for a couple years now, and I absolutely love the fall in that area. It’s truly mesmerizing, and the perfect backdrop for some supernatural goings on.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Too many to count if I’m being honest. My most promising ones are an urban fantasy series centered around demons hunting humans with supernatural abilities (first book’s revised manuscript complete, just not published), an LGBT horror centered in South America, and the werewolf mystery I mentioned earlier.

And that’s just the beginning! I like to have at least ten years’ worth of work at any given point in time. It definitely keeps things interesting if I want to switch to another project at the drop of a hat.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to my debut novella Reaper: A Horror Novella. I’m currently writing the second act (I divided the plot into three acts like a play) and am hoping to self-publish sometime around the end of the year if possible.

It’s about twice as long as my first novella, and I’m super excited to finish Gregory’s story. Definitely keep your eyes peeled!

Gregory and his little sister Imogen love spending Halloween with their parents. But this year is different. If he proves he can take care of Imogen all by himself, he’ll finally have the allowance he’s dreamed of.

That was before the basement door opened on its own. Before the strange door appeared in the basement and Imogen was taken from him by the monster.

Now everyone in town is blaming him for her disappearance, but no one is listening to his story. Where did the door come from? What was that creature? And most of all, can he find his sister before it’s too late, or will he bury his memories of her along with his parents?

Purchase Link

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

Bio

Jonathan Pongratz is a writer and author of captivating horror, urban fantasy, and paranormal stories. When he’s not writing, he’s busy being a bookworm, video game junkie, and karaoke vocalist. A former resident of Dallas, he currently resides in Kansas City with his halloween cat Ajax. By day he works magic in finance, by night he creates dark and mesmerizing worlds.

Social Media

Facebook – www.facebook.com/jonathanpongratz
Goodreads – www.goodreads.com/jonathanpongratz
Tumblr – www.jonathanpongratz.tumblr.com
Website – www.jonathanpongratz.com

Gamble (Nightforce Security Series #2) by Staci Troilo #bookreview #novella #suspense #TuesdayBookBlog

Sometimes stakes are too high to gamble. Other times they’re too high not to.

Noah Crawford is a consummate bachelor—until a one-night stand piques his interest in something more. The only problem is, she wouldn’t give him her name, and he has no way to find her.

A week later, resigned to forgetting her, he accompanies his friends to a casino. Floor traffic promises to be light while everyone clusters at the sportsbook for the college basketball championship game. But Noah isn’t in the mood for frivolity and sets off on his own. No one is more surprised than he is when he bumps into his mystery woman.

He’s playing a far different game than cards when armed criminals take over the poker room. Noah is separated from his friends, and somehow the room has been cut off from security. Help isn’t coming. It’s up to him to keep everyone safe while he tries to thwart the gunmen.

Noah quickly realizes he’s trying to prevent more than a simple heist. And he doesn’t know who he can trust. The stakes have never been higher, and he’s all in. But one of the thieves might have an ace up his sleeve, and that could cost Noah everything.

I’ve read other books by this author, but this is my first in The Nightforce Security series – and what an introduction!  This short novella manages to pack in enough action to rival a full length book.  It’s intelligent and fast-paced, with a touch of romance, and has some amusing names for casino criminals.  I especially enjoyed the banter between Noah and his friends – boys will be boys.

If you’re in the mood for a quick read with intrigue and suspense, look no further.

The Young Queens (Three Dark Crowns 0.2) by Kendare Blake #TuesdayBookBlog #fantasy #YA

Three black witches, born to a descending queen. One would rise to become queen in her place. Perhaps the strongest of the three. Perhaps the cleverest. Or perhaps it would be the girl born under the best shield of luck.

Katharine, Arsinoe and Mirabella – three young queens born to fulfil their destiny – to fight to the death to win the crown. But before they were poisoner, elemental and naturalist, they were children, sisters and friends . . .Goodreads.com

While impatiently awaiting the third book in this series, this short novella satisfied me for the moment.  It offers the reader keen insight on the backstory of not only the three queens, but many other characters and fills in some blanks about certain motivations and occurrences in Three Dark Crowns and One Dark Throne.

If you’re a fan of dark fantasy, complex characters, and stellar world-building, I can’t recommend this series enough, but must stress that this novella shouldn’t be read before the first two books if you want to avoid spoilers.

Apocalyptic Organ Grinder by William Todd Rose

William Todd Rose reinvents the zombie story with a thrilling novella of a post-apocalyptic America where saviors are heroes . . . and heroes are killers.

A fatal virus—a biowarfare experiment unleashed on an unsuspecting world—has reduced the once-mighty United States to a smattering of tribes dueling for survival in the lawless wilderness. The 11408233disease-free folk known as Settlers barricade themselves in small villages, determined to keep out the highly contagious Spewers—infected humans who cannot die from the virus but spread the seeds of death from the festering blisters that cover their bodies.

Tanner Kline is a trained Sweeper, sworn to exterminate Spewers roaming the no-man’s-land surrounding his frightened community. As all Settlers do, Tanner dismisses them as little more than savages—until he meets his match in Spewer protector Lila. But when hunter and hunted clash, their bloody tango ignites a firestorm of fear and hatred. Now, no one is safe from the juggernaut of terror that rages unchecked, and the fate of humanity hangs on questions with no answers: Who’s right, who’s wrong . . . and who’s going to care if everyone’s dead? – Goodreads.com

The biggest thing I liked about this fast-paced story was that it was told both in Tanner’s and Lila’s perspectives – and there were arguments to be made for who was right and who was wrong in their motivations and beliefs.  Their world was extreme variations of shades of gray and the novella itself was dark and very disturbing at times.

What I didn’t like so much was the “fairy tales” in between some of the chapters that told of the coming of a hero and how the virus began.  Parts of it were just laughable and didn’t seem to fit in with the dark setting of the novel.  However, the action sequences were very vivid made me feel as it I were right there watching in person.  The author also did an excellent job in the character development of Tanner and Lila, showing the good, bad, and ugly of both.

All through the story, I wondered where the organ grinder came in and when it showed up, I thought it somewhat reminiscent of the imagery in some of Stephen King’s novels.  Although I suspected what the ending might be, it didn’t happen like I thought, so there was a little bit of a surprise there.  I would definitely recommend this for a quick, thought-provoking read.

This was a novella I received from Net Galley.